What are you, a bunch of joyless prudes?
Not at all! We believe that the truly joyful life is lived by respecting the intrinsic human dignity of all men and women, including ourselves, and refraining from attitudes and activities demeaning to our nature. As for prudery, we believe that sex is a human good, but, like any other good, it must be treated within its proper sphere. Sex is the physical expression of oneness associated with total, self-giving love. This transcendent meaning is latent in every sexual action, whether we want it to be or not; this is why, for instance, bonding hormones are released during orgasm. When we engage in sex without promising our whole selves to our partners—treating sex as a game or as a selfish quid pro quo—we trivialize our own sexual nature, fail to show respect for ourselves and for our partners, and remove ourselves farther from genuine love and true joy.
Aren’t beliefs like yours sex-negative?
Is it “sex-negative” to believe that the sexual dimension of our nature should be treated with respect, reverence, humility, and propriety, and reserved to express our deepest and most sacred interpersonal relationships? And is it “sex-positive” to think that “casual sex” is as valid a use of our sexuality as total intimacy, as though our sexuality were no different from a simple physical urge, like the need to eat or to go to the bathroom? Of course not. Silly neologisms like “sex-negative” and “sex-positive” are classic examples of Orwellian Newspeak, ideological catchwords intended to stop thought from going any deeper than the level of words.
Isn’t all sexual activity fine, provided that it’s consensual?
College campuses, like Yale, emphasize “consent” in an attempt to combat a specific problem, that of sexual assault. Worthy as that goal is—there are few crimes more despicable than rape—this emphasis unfortunately tends to discourage students from recognizing other principles of sexual morality. Human beings are more than able to consent to actions that are detrimental to themselves, their holistic happiness, and the well-being of others. Nowhere is this truer than in the torrid arena of sexual desire; and no one is more apt to make mistakes than the inexperienced college student, largely free (often for the first time) from parental authority and all other external restraints. We recognize that these circumstances—passion, confusion, immaturity, and want of guidance—tend to promote a dysfunctional sexual culture: one whose errors include, but are not limited to, coercion, exploitation, and advantage-taking. Indeed, we believe that we can only combat rape and sexual harassment by tackling the fundamental problem: the Yale community’s trivializing and degrading attitude toward sex
Isn’t it impossible, not to mention unhealthy, not to let loose sexually now and then?
It isn’t easy to keep a level head amid the tumult and confusion of Yale’s sexual culture. But it certainly isn’t impossible, and it most certainly isn’t unhealthy! Nothing is truly rewarding without being difficult, and keeping a right attitude toward sex—what some call chastity—proves as much by being both difficult and deeply rewarding. The rewards are being in charge of your desires; learning to treat others with the respect they deserve as whole human beings, not just as bodies that you can use for your pleasure without consequences; and being able to approach your future spouse with a privileged sense of belonging to one another in a way that nobody else can claim. The difficulties lie in fighting to master your desires and resisting the dehumanizing messages of the prevailing culture. Luckily, chastity gets easier with time, just like any other virtue. The reverse is also true: Lust, like any other appetite, only increases with indulgence. If you eat too much junk food, you become addicted to salt and sweets. If you drink too much, you become an alcoholic. If you treat sexual gratification as a need, it will become one. Hence the belief that chastity is “unnatural,” “unhealthy,” “abnormal,” or even “dangerous.” These lies are nothing more than the self-justifying clichés of a culture that has chosen to be obsessed with sex.
What do you think of pornography?
The ubiquity of pornography, especially Internet pornography, is one of the most serious obstacles to a healthy sexual culture and the most manifest sign of our society’s obsession with sex. Pornography, by its very nature, encourages the viewer to value sex only for the sake of his (or her) individual physical pleasure, forgetting the intrinsic significance of the act and the selfless love of which sex should be the physical consummation. Where meaningful sex unites, pornography isolates. Moreover, pornography robs performers—especially women—of their human dignity by reducing sex to nothing more than a commercial transaction. Even if we try not to let our use of pornography hurt our “real-life” relationships with others, we are tainted by our participation in such a dehumanizing industry. Every actress in a pornographic film is someone’s daughter, sister, friend, or even mother. All we need to do is imagine how we would like our own daughters, sisters, friends, and mothers to be treated and talked about in like manner to realize—if we’re honest with ourselves—that something wrong and hurtful is going on.
When you call on the university not to support certain events, aren’t you limiting the right to free expression?
As a private institution dedicated to growing its students into respectful and responsible adults, Yale has a right—in fact, a duty—to promote a public culture that is consistent with its mission. Like it or not, we are all influenced by what our society considers good; not even Yale students are an exception to this rule. We believe the prevailing culture influences students in the wrong direction, and we call on the university not to promote this culture any longer. Yale was right not to tolerate DKE’s violent, misogynistic messages, because they expressed an intolerable sexual attitude. We do not advocate for similar punitive action against all sexual statements we disapprove of. We simply advocate that Yale regulate its public forum so as not to actively promote harmful and degrading views of human sexuality.
I don’t like hook-up culture either, but all my friends are involved in it and it seems there are no other options. What can I do?
Be proactive in seeking out alternative friend circles and weekend activities. Rather than getting smashed and heading to a party to grind and hook-up, go to concerts; go to movies; hold concerts; make movies; play cards and board games; go on a real date; sit around in your common room with a group of buddies discussing the True, the Beautiful, and the Good—the options are truly limitless. Every Friday and Saturday night from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., Dwight Hall hosts Global Grounds, an open space to meet up with friends and hang out. Free coffee, tea, hot chocolate and snacks are included! If you belong to a faith group on campus, chances are you can find friends there who share your views.
Alternatively, if you’d like to help yourself and others break out of the reigning culture, try organizing and hosting “classy parties.” If you’re of age, purchase beer, wine, and spirits of better quality, but less quantity, than you’d find at a typical rager or frat party—rather than just getting wasted, let the point be to enjoy a drink or two over conversation while getting to know somebody. Get some friends to bring snacks. Leave the lights on. Choose music that provides a pleasant background without distracting from the social atmosphere, and don’t turn it up so loud that you can’t hear what anyone is saying. In short, make it an enjoyable and mature night with friends.
I want to learn more about Undergraduates for a Better Yale College and your countercultural vision of sexuality. Whom do I talk to?
Just send an email to any member of the Undergraduates for a Better Yale College team. We’d love to talk to you!